Before you decide to host a party at your private residence, learn about the Massachusetts social host law. This law could lead to you being held responsible for accidents and injuries caused by an intoxicated individual who was furnished with alcohol at your party. In addition, you could face criminal charges for giving alcohol to someone under the age of 21.
A social host law is a statute that deals with liability, or legal and financial responsibility, for injuries or damage caused by someone who is under the influence of alcohol. These laws make it possible in certain circumstances to hold the person who furnished the intoxicated individual with alcohol liable for damage the individual caused in his or her drunken state.
Many states have social host laws in place to help prevent drunk driving accidents. These laws work by discouraging adults from furnishing underage individuals (those under the age of 21) with alcohol at private parties and social events. It does so by imposing legal consequences for allowing underage drinking to occur on a property if this results in injury or property damage to others.
Massachusetts is one of many states that has a social host law. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 138, Section 34 prohibits furnishing alcohol to an underage individual. This law states that whoever makes a sale or delivery of any alcoholic beverage to any person under 21 years of age shall be punished with a fine of up to $2,000 or imprisonment for up to one year. Doing so could also result in social host liability for any harm caused by the intoxicated individual after being given the alcohol.
If a drunk driving car accident takes place in Massachusetts, for example, the social host law could result in more than just the drunk driver being held liable for the crash. If an investigation finds that the driver was under the age of 21 and had been given alcohol by an adult who knowingly allowed underage drinking to occur on his or her property, the host could also be held liable.
The social host law can apply to anyone providing alcoholic beverages to individuals under 21 years of age on their premises or property owned or controlled by the individual. This may extend to landlords as well as the parents of an underage child who hosted a party if the parents supplied the alcohol. Social hosts can face liability for civil judgments as well as be prosecuted criminally in Massachusetts for serving underage individuals alcohol.
It is against the law to serve or provide alcohol to underage guests, such as by allowing underage individuals to drink alcohol in your home or other property that you control. Being found guilty of furnishing alcohol to any person under the age of 21, whether you sold, delivered or freely gave the alcohol to the person, could lead to a criminal charge in Massachusetts. Note, however, that this law does not apply to providing alcohol to your child or grandchild.
If you are facing charges as a social host for giving someone out of the age of 21 alcohol, contact Spring & Spring for a free criminal defense consultation. We build defense strategies that are personalized for each client’s unique circumstances. We can help you protect yourself as much as possible against alcohol-related charges as a social host in Massachusetts.